Editorial: A troubled mission

By Mac Weekly Staff

Macalester is committed to being a preeminent liberal arts college with an educational program known for its high standards for scholarship and its special emphasis on internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society

—Macalester College Mission, as approved by the Board of Trustees, May 1992.

Under the leadership of President Robert Gavin in the early 1990s, Macalester adopted the above mission statement, committing itself to the so-called “pillars” that hold up the college: internationalism, multiculturalism and community service.

The decision to define Macalester based upon three pillars was, in our view, a poor choice that has resulted in division and anger.
By being clear and transparent with its core values, supporters at the time held that the new mission would better distinguish Macalester among similar schools. However, the pillars, perhaps intended to evolve into a backdrop of everything we do, have come to define the inner-politics of the college, creating divided factions that compete over limited resources—a result with which no one could honestly be pleased.
The recent resignation of Joi Lewis, the Dean of Multicultural Life, was only the most recent reminder of this tension. People involved in multiculturalism at this college have been consistently disappointed with the college’s commitment to their pillar, a disappointment that led to Lewis’ resignation. Feelings of resentment have been running high for years, especially over subjects such as the Institute for Global Studies, curriculum changes and faculty retention rates.
Further it is ridiculous to commit an institution to just three values. How can we begin to measure a commitment to community service in comparison to internationalism? This has caused factions to constantly compare themselves to each other and engage in fights that hurt the dynamics of the community.
In our view, the college has backed itself into a corner from which it cannot, or should not retreat. Uprooting these pillars today would be absurd and would cause widespread anger.

The college should continue its commitment to all three pillars. Yet at the same time, no individual or group working to promote the interests of one pillar should hold their goals in higher esteem than the goals of the other pillars. No pillar will have achieved anything unless all three work to promote the most important value, the advancement of the very institution these pillars serve to uphold.
The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by a board comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editors and Opinion Editors. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.